Category: Brain Science and Health

7 Myths About the Brain that Might Surprise You

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  1. MYTH: You’re either left-brained or right-brained.
    This long-standing myth has been debunked. There is no evidence that people preferentially use one side of their brain more.2. MYTH: Cognitive decline is not impacted by choices or circumstances.
    We now understand that there are lots of things you can do that appear to fight cognitive decline: exercise, social interaction, good nutrition, brain stimulation and one-on-one brain training.

    3. MYTH: IQ cannot be changed.
    We now know the brain is “plastic,” that is, capable of changing at any age. And since IQ is simply a measurement of cognitive skills, stronger abilities translate into higher IQ.

    4. MYTH: Brain size determines intelligence.
    On average, the male brain is about 10 percent larger than the female brain, but it has nothing to do with intelligence.

    5. MYTH: Alcohol kills brain cells.
    It’s not that brain cells are being killed off by excessive alcohol consumption, it’s that the dendrites (which help cells communicate) are being damaged.

    6. MYTH: Some people are just destined to be bad at math.
    Struggles with math, called “dyscalculia,” are often caused by weak cognitive skills, which can be trained. Brain training works on the skills needed to learn, process and recall math-related information—such as visual processing, working memory and logic & reasoning.

    7. MYTH: Dyslexia is about reading letters backwards.
    Dyslexia simply means “trouble with words” and even smart kids can be dyslexic. In people with dyslexia, the weakest cognitive skills are often phonemic awareness and auditory processing, although other areas may suffer as well. Personal brain training can target and train these weak skills.

Can Allergies Help Your Memory? Researchers think so.

When has having allergies ever been a good thing? Maybe the time has come! When researchers in Austria exposed mice to grass pollen to induce an allergic reaction, they found that the reaction stimulated the growth of new neurons. It appears as though allergic reactions suppress the decline of creating new memories, which happens with aging.

 

 

Read more: http://www.learningrx.org/allergies-may-actually-help-memory/

Hey Big Spender! Why our brains make us spend too much during the holidays

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Whether or not we stay within our holiday shopping budget may not depend as much on willpower as it does on the circuitry of our own brains. Learn why your brain “lights up” when shopping—and how you can avoid impulse spending this season.

Three Simple Tips to Avoid Impulse Spending and Stay within Your Holiday Budget

The holidays are here, which for most of us means spending time shopping in malls or online looking for gifts for loved ones (and even for ourselves!). It also means trying to keep from spending too much money.

Apparently whether we stay within our holiday shopping budget may not depend as much on willpower as it does on the circuitry of our own brains.

Brian Knutson of Standford University and colleagues mapped the brains of shoppers using a MRI. They discovered that, as people contemplated whether or not to make a purchase, one of two segments of their brains would “light up.” If the nucleus accumbens–part of the reward and pleasure center of the brain–lit up, the subject would invariably make the purchase. If the insula–the part of the brain that registers pain (such as the pain of something costing more than its perceived value)–lit up, the subject would invaribly say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

By watching which part of the brain became active, researchers could accurately predict whether or not the shopper would make the purchase.

The reason shopping feels so good may be related to the brain chemical dopamine. This “feel good” chemical is released anytime we are exposed to the exciting mix of new places, challenges, sights and sounds–all of which are plentiful at the mall.

Looking to the brain for reasons people make the decisions they do is a new science. Baba Shiv, professor of marketing and an expert in the field of “decision neuroscience” says that, “Ten years ago if you said there is going to be fMRI in marketing research, I would have said it will never happen.” He explains that now business researchers and neuroscientists are working together, “moving toward systems of brain analysis, figuring out what gives us the juice to make decisions.”

Knudsen agrees, adding, “We’re moving from the outside to the inside of the mind.”

As you go about your holiday shopping, understanding how your brain perceives and even influences the experience may help you make better decisions.

If you’re prone to impulse purchases and are worried about staying in your budget, try these three things:

For starters, be extra careful while traveling–the novelty of shopping in a new city can make you particularly vulnerable to the heady pleasure of bagging a bargain.

Also, when contemplating a purchase you suspect you’ll regret, neutralize the thrill of the moment and activate your insula by thinking of three unpleasant ramifications that might be related to the purchase you’re trying to resist.

Finally, consider leaving the store and coming back the next day to let the dopamine settle before making your final decision.

“I’m the Stupidest Kid in My Class!”

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iStock_000034604652_MediumWhen their hearts break, our hearts break. It’s one of the excruciating mysteries and blessings of being a parent.

We love our kids, and know just how amazing they really are. So when one of our kids is feeling inadequate or discouraged, we want desperately to fix the hurt.

It’s not easy knowing the right thing to say or do. And even when we have a good idea of what to say, it’s not always a quick fix.  Just like the adults who love them, kids sometimes need time to process the insecurities and disappointments of life.

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